Letting your baby nap in a car seat, swing or bouncer could be deadly, experts warn 

  • Doctors: Risk is that a baby will be strangled by the straps or suffocate
  • Infants 'should not be left unsupervised when using such devices'
  • Infants should only sleep on firm mattress, on their back, with no bedding

Allowing a baby to sleep in their car seat could prove fatal, experts have warned.

And the risk, they say, extends to cover any carrying devices where babies can fall asleep, including swings and bouncers.

A new study found infants left to sleep in such environments are at risk of strangulation and suffocation.

Researchers at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center examined the records for 47 infant deaths associated with sitting or carrying devices.

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Car seats, slings, swings and bouncers raise the risk of death via strangulation from straps, experts warn

Car seats, slings, swings and bouncers raise the risk of death via strangulation from straps, experts warn

The deaths, of children aged under two, were all reported to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and involved sitting and carrying devices between April 2004 and December 2008.

The data analysed included information from death certificates, reports from medical examiners and coroners, and interviews with family members and witnesses.

All but one were found to have died as a result of asphyxia, or strangulation.

Two-thirds of cases involved car seats, while strangulation from a strap accounted for 52 per cent of the car seat deaths.

The remaining deaths were recorded to have happened in slings, swings, bouncers and strollers, the experts said.

They said the elapsed time from when the infants were last seen alive by parents or carers to when they were discovered lifeless ranged from four minutes to 11 hours.

Infants and young children should not be left unsupervised when using a sitting or carrying device due to the risk of suffocation and death
Dr Erich Batra 

One case involved an 11-month-old boy, who died after being placed in a car seat with a bottle to take a nap, while at an in-home child care facility.

The seat's chest buckles were fastened, but the lower ones were not.

When the child care team checked on the infant, one hour and 20 minutes after placing him down for his sleep, they found the boy had slipped down in the seat and a strap was pressed against his neck.  

Dr Erich Batra, who led the study, warned: 'Infants and young children should not be left unsupervised when using a sitting or carrying device due to the risk of suffocation and death.' 

He added: 'Many parents use sitting or carrying devices, not realising that there are hazards when they do this.' 

His team added: 'It is important to note that an infant in a properly positioned car seat, in a car, with properly attached straps is at little risk from a suffocation injury.

'Infants and young children should not be left unsupervised when using a sitting or carrying device due to the risk of suffocation and death,' the new guidance says

'Infants and young children should not be left unsupervised when using a sitting or carrying device due to the risk of suffocation and death,' the new guidance says

But, they said, contrary to popular belief, the restraints and design of infant sitting or carrying devices are 'not intended for unsupervised sleeping'.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep on their back on a firm mattress, without any lose bedding.

And Dr Batra and his team recommend seven key points for parents to remember when putting their children to sleep:

  • Do not leave children unsupervised 
  • Never leave children in a car seat with unbuckled or partially buckled straps
  • Car seats should never be placed on a soft or unstable surface
  • Infants in bouncers, strollers, and swings may be able to manoeuvre into positions that could compromise their airway; straps on devices may not prevent infants getting into hazardous situations
  • Ensure that infants cannot twist their heads into soft bedding or slump forward in a seat; restraints should be used according to manufacturer's instructions
  • Slings are particularly hazardous because of their design and the ease with which an infant's airway can be collapsed. If used, a baby's face should be visible and 'kissable' at all times
  • Do not place more than one infant together in a swing meant for one infant 

The study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics. 

 

 

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